Oscar Contender: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire in 'Brothers'
A November release date, three critically acclaimed young actors, potent dramatic material and a filmmaker who is no stranger to Oscar? That my friends is a seductive formula for an awards season player on paper if there ever was one. But is that really the case with "Brothers"?
An adaption of Susanne Bier's provocative Danish film of the same title (translated of course), this new "Brothers" was written by screenwriter David Benioff whose career has been all over the place with flicks such as the disappointing "The Kite Runner" and this summer's dreadful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." He's a writer who hasn't returned to the heights of his debut novel and screenplay "25th Hour."
More intriguingly, helming this "Brothers" is Jim Sheridan, no stranger to screenwriting having been nominated for Oscar three times in those categories as well as receiving two directing nods for "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father." Sheridan has had a mixed 21st Century bringing the beloved (by some) "In America" to our shores in 2002 and then following that up with the "8 Mile" wannabe "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" in 2005 which landed with a thud both critically and commercially. This new drama was supposed to be his return to prestige pics, but the new trailer suggests that may not be the case.
Originally scheduled for release last fall, "Brothers" was pushed out of 2009 and there were rumors it was headed to this year's Cannes Film Festival. Needless to say, that didn't occur and the film finally found a December release date. It was also unclear who was releasing the Relativity Media financed film. MGM was supposedly original distributor, but Relativity quietly moved the film to Lionsgate where it has a new overall distribution deal. Lionsgate have some true creative mavens and as you can tell by the pretty poster below, "Brothers" is being positioned as a drama, not an in-your-face thriller as the embedded trailer suggests (or at least in its second half).
The movie finds Natalie Portman as a young mother of two whose husband (Tobey Maguire) seemingly is lost in Afghanistan. During a period of mourning she becomes involved with his caring and sensitive brother (Jake Gyllenhaal). When Maguire's character is discovered alive, he comes home a changed man, jealous and suspicious of his wife's actions while he was gone. Conflict and danger erupt.
Maguire is refreshingly dark and manic as the type of on edge character we rarely see him play, but the preview doesn't do much to convince anyone Portman or Gyllenhaal are doing anything but the one-note mopeyness both have spent years perfecting. It also doesn't help that the trailer's second half has a forced thriller arc that seems out of place when compared to the picture's poster or the tone of the beginning of the preview. Note to Lionsgate: this trailer may have tested better than other versions, but it feels like you're selling the movie as something it's not and audiences will smell it a mile away. If it's a drama, sell it as a drama and hope the critic's fall your way.
Don't let my opinion rule the day, however, watch the trailer below and judge for yourself.
"Brothers" opens in limited release Dec. 4. Is it a true contender? Not yet, but perhaps this is just a bad preview of a good movie (it's happened before).